By Managing Editor Teri L. Hansen
Each year people are inundated with events and products to raise money. Most of the causes asking for funds are noble and deserving. According to Consumer Reports, the end of the year is when people donate the most and accounts for 41% of the nation’s charitable giving.
Known as cause marketing, offering products and services in league with a good cause is a $1.78 billion, year-round way for companies to support charities. It has been around since at least 1983. At the time, American Express offered to donate a portion of credit card revenues to benefit the renovation of the Statue of Liberty.
In cause marketing, everything from cookie dough to magazine subscriptions allows money to exchange hands, but how much actually goes to the cause in need?
“This all happened from a conversation at a PTO meeting a couple years ago when reviewing our catalog sales fundraiser,” Eisenhower Elementary Parent Teacher Organization President Katie Walters said. “We noticed we sold about $19,000 in product, but only received about $8,000. This was disheartening to see those dollars leave our community.”
For the second year, Eisenhower Elementary School, 301 Wickersham Drive, is utilizing a different fundraising technique. No catch, no gimmick, no clutter and no pressure. Just giving to a good cause in need.
“Our goal was to create a simple and easy way for our school family and community to make free will donations to fund all that our PTO has been able to accomplish,” Walters said.
Companies don’t participate in cause marketing for the sole desire to give, it is a business after all. It isn’t a bad tactic considering research has shown that 90% of consumers say that if products are of similar quality and price, they will switch to a brand that is associated with a good cause.
While this is a positive in a sense, there is a downside. Studies have shown that often times consumers purchase something they don’t actually need or want in order to be charitable. For this reason, there is also a diminished sense of happiness in the purchase. Owning a $25 t-shirt that you will never wear is less satisfying in the long run than donating the $25 to the charity out right, which also carries the added advantage of a tax-deduction. In cause-marketing the company selling the product gets the tax deduction for charitable giving. Another bonus is that local businesses aren’t losing out to a catalogue or company elsewhere.
“The first year we held our Fuss Free Fundraiser we heard from several businesses in town that appreciated us not using outside catalog companies that take money out of our community. Or compete with local businesses that sell those products,” Walters said. “We also were beneficiaries of a $500 grant from the McPherson Education Foundation that boosted our earnings. We really feel an urge to utilize the resources we already have in our community. We have been even more intentional this year to host more Dinner Night Out’s to fundraise. This is an awesome opportunity for us to partner with local restaurants and coffee shops to promote their business and earn a percentage of sales for our PTO. It has also worked out to be a fun family event for our school to have a large number of our students and family support a local business for dinner.”
The recent school board elections brought the needs of local schools under a microscope. A recent study by Non-Profit Source showed that while donations in the country are high, education has seen a decline in charitable contributions. Yet it is essential, product fundraising accounts for roughly 80% of the funds, groups use to provide “extras” for their schools.
“As a PTO board and in partnership with our school leadership we have been able to paint the majority of our school, hang artwork in the halls, install vinyl decals with positive messages in the bathrooms, replace our playground material that was destructive to our school vacuum cleaners and kids clothing and shoes with pea gravel and labor, new landscaping in the front flower beds, a new sound system for our school wide JAG program and other programming, playground equipment, books for our reading specialists, and all new scooters for physical education, and so much more,” Walters said.
The no fuss approach has the added benefit of reducing the pressure on not only the consumers, but the parents and students as well.
“We also felt like there were high pressure tactics put on students to make sales goals to earn prizes. It just didn’t match with our values and what our PTO wanted to support in our small-town community,” Walters said.
The Eisenhower Elementary PTO Stress-Free No-Fuss Fundraiser is accepting donations through Dec. 20. This year’s goal is $5,000. Checks can be made payable to EES PTO and sent to 301 Wickersham Drive. Online donations can be made at https://squareup.com/store/eisenhower-elementary-pto. The funds this year will go towards painting the library and installing a cork board to display artwork. However, aesthetics aren’t the only goal.
“Our PTO will also use funds to pay for teacher grants. Teachers are able to apply for grants for classroom needs, projects, or experiences. We want to work in partnership with our teachers to make these opportunities possible for our students,” Walters said. “We want to have a reasonable fundraiser that encompasses beautifying our school and making resources readily available to our teachers and students. We have a pretty great culture at EES with an intentional approach to showing our school family that they are important and valued.”